hug

My grandnephew, Ethan Hadlock is such a loving boy. The older he gets, the more his sweet personality is showing. Not every boy willingly hug his aunts, and especially great aunts, who can seem…ancient to them, but Ethan doesn’t care what people think. That is a rare quality, and one that Ethan shares with a couple of his cousins, Caalab Royce and Zack Spethman. All of these boys are confident enough in who they are, that they feel no pressure to put on a “cool act” for their friends. A “cool act” involves doing whatever your friends think is cool…even if it isn’t how you feel about things. Ethan doesn’t care about that. He is his own man, and that makes me very proud of him. Ethan is a great big brother to his sister, Aurora, and really loves being and older cousin to Adelaide Sawdon and Makenzie Moore. Ethan’s quick wit, keeps the girls laughing, and the adults too. He gets much of his wit from his dad, Ryan Hadlock, but don’t be fooled, because, his mom, Chelsea Hadlock can be pretty funny too.

Ethan is in 4th grade this year, and he is very smart. He really enjoys Math, which many children find to be a difficult subject to master. This year, Ethan is able to participate in a Lego Robotics Club after school. He loves building the different robots, and making them work. There are a number of events that he can participate in too, and he really enjoys them. This year for Christmas, he received several set of Lego robotics, and he had the put together in short order, so his Aunt Jessi Sawdon was able to get pictures right away. I know Ethan will have lots of fun with those Lego Robotics, because you can tweak them to do different things, and to have more power. In my opinion, Lego Robotics is a great way for kids to learn how electronics work.

Ethan had long been a Star Wars fan, and that doesn’t appear to be changing. He and his friends love to dress up as the different characters, and play Star Wars games. Like most Star Wars fans, I don’t suppose that Ethan will ever stop being a fan. Once a Star Wars fan, always a Star Wars fan…right!! I find it hard to believe that Ethan is 10 years old. It just doesn’t seem possible. He is getting so tall, and he is really coming into his own as a person. I look forward to watching him grow into the young man he will be. Today is Ethan’s 10th birthday. Happy birthday Ethan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Once In A While 1Once In A While 2When we think of soldiers, most of us picture the fighting machines that these men have been trained to be, and we would not be wrong in most respects, but what we sometimes fail to realize is the fact that a soldier is a person with a deep love of human life. They don’t go to war because they want to be trained killers, but rather they go to war because they want to preserve life, and a way of life. They see that there are people in this world who are being abused, beaten, and starved into submission…or worse yet killed for refusing to submit. There are evil people in this world, who somehow feel that they have the right to control other human lives. They want servants, or they want to sell people, or just own people. Soldiers go to war, because they see these evil actions for the wrong that they are, and they can’t stand by and let it just happen.

So yes, in that respect, our picture of the trained killer is exactly right, but what we so often miss is the human side of the soldier. We miss the man or woman who has left their own children, nieces, or nephews behind to go and fight for children in some other country, so that they might be able to live out their lives in the same safety that the children, nieces, and nephews of the soldier are able to live in back home. The problem is that we don’t often realize what things they do for those children in other nations. We don’t often see the moments of playing with the children. We don’t see the children who come up to the soldiers, because they feel safe around them…even with the possibility of gunfire at any moment. They still feel safer near the soldiers than they do on their own.

And for our soldiers, who are so lonely for their own children, nieces and nephews, it is a nice break from the reality of war, with all its ugliness, even if it is just once in a while, and even if it is just for a few moments. Maybe they can take a few moments and pretend that this child they are playing with is their own child at home. Maybe they can pretend that they are pushing their own child in a swing, on a merry-go-round, or just giving them a simple hug. Perhaps those few moments that they get once in a while, can take them away from Once In A While 3Once In A While 4the worry for their own safety, or the fact that in a little while they will be faced with an enemy, who they will have to kill, or they will be killed. War is a hard place to be, and a life event that no soldier can ever forget, so it is nice, for just a few moments, to be able to spend a little time with a child, to get away from the war and the ugliness that lies within it. Sometimes we, the people back home need to just consider the sacrifice our soldiers make, and be glad that they have a moment of relief, even if it is just once in a while.

Tucker - 7 years oldMy nephew, Tucker Birkey likes girls, provided they aren’t too much older than he is. Tucker is a typical seven year old boy, and little girls are very interesting, but when it comes to older girls…like aunts and such…well, he’a little bit too macho to be seen hugging them. It might be ok if none of his friends see it, but in reality, he would feel a whole lot better if he could just wave and call it good. Of course, you know how aunts are. We like hugs from our nieces and nephews, and we don’t always consider their feelings. I would probably feel bad about this situation, but like most aunts, who love their nieces and nephew, those hugs are simply important. I mean, lets face it aunts love their nieces and nephews.

For Tucker, at seven years of age though, girls usually have cooties, and I don’t know for sure, but maybe the older girls have more cooties than younger ones. 199325_10150121801297236_5242878_nA while back, Tucker was visiting his grandma, my mother-in-law, Joanne Schulenberg at the nursing home where she lives, and when the visit was over, another of the elderly women mentioned that Tucker was cute. She asked if she could give him a hug. His mom said yes, and Tucker…not knowing what he was getting into, obediently gave the woman a hug. All seemed to be ok, until she planted a kiss on his cheek. It was an innocent enough thing for an old lady to do, and Tucker did his very best not to make it a big deal. Nevertheless, as he walked away with a scrunched up face, that was filled with disgust, he was trying in vain to scrub away that kiss. I never really thought of old ladies having cooties, but I guess to an almost seven year old boy things could seem very different.

196457_10150121813422236_1356812_nThe thing that really amazes me though is that while a little boy, like Tucker is completely grossed out by the kiss of an aunt or an old lady in a nursing home, having his dog lick his face is nothing more than funny. There seems to be nothing gross about that at all. I guess it has to be a dog owner thing, because I know that I don’t exactly like being licked by a dog. Tucker, on the other hand loves everything about his dog, and I’m pretty sure a doggy kiss would be no problem. I’ll bet Tucker doesn’t even think about cooties when it comes to doggy kisses. All I can say is that I think Tucker and I have very different ideas about where cooties come from. Today is Tucker’s birthday. I think my gift will be…no cootie filled aunty kisses. Happy birthday Tucker!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Jim hugging the cousinsWhenever our cousins came to visit from Wisconsin, we always had such a great time. Hanging out in Uncle Bill’s bus, playing in the yard, playing cribbage, going for ice cream, or just hanging out with the cousins…it didn’t matter what exactly, just that they were here to visit again. We felt that way about all of our out of town cousins. In fact, the only thing that was bad about those visits was the end of them, and it always came too soon. I’m one of those people who really hates to say goodbye, especially when I know it will be for a long time. If I had my way, all those people that I love would live in the same town.

When it was time for them to begin the journey home, everyone tried to lighten the mood. We did goofy little things to make each other laugh, even though we were all sad. Of course, we had to take the pictures that last day too, because we wanted something to remember each other by, until the next time we got to see each other. There was still so much to say, and everyone wanted to talk at once, hoping to get just a few more moments with the cousins. A week just isn’t enough time to spend with your cousins. We promised to write to them more often, even though we had promised before and did for a while, and then got busy with our own lives again. I think we knew that writing wasn’t really going to happen, as we promised. Finally it was time to go, and all that was left was the hugging and waving goodbye, and the wishing that the week was just starting, instead of ending. Life seemed a little more mundane after they left. We had to think of things to do, and nothing seemed interesting now. Even the things we had done when they were here were less interesting.

The sad thing is that as we grow older, and have families of our own, sometimes those relationships are lost and become distant, because everyone is so busy. Seldom do the kids Cousins and Jimmyget together they way they did when they lived at their parent’s home. Families grow apart, and then comes the point when they almost don’t feel comfortable sitting down to talk, because they don’t know what to say to each other. They have both lived such different lives, with little in common, and it just gets awkward. Soon, it’s just easier to forgo the visits all together. Then comes the moment when the cousin or their parents pass away, and you feel bad because you have been out of touch for so long…and you feel great regret, but it is too late. I wish I had more time with all my cousins and I’m thankful for Facebook, which has reconnected so many of us virtually, and that is the next best thing to being there.

Big sisters are a very unique type of person, especially when they are the oldest child. They have gone from being the only child to being a little mommy’s helper in the care of their new little sibling. They are usually young enough to have it in their head that this is their baby, so don’t even tell them that they can’t be the mommy! They don’t like it when you don’t let them be the caregiver of this new baby. Of course, as with any job, they know that there are some things that should be handled by the nanny (ie, Mommy)…like stinky diapers!! Mom is totally welcome to step in at that moment. And if this kid decides to scream, and a bottle won’t fix it, well, call in the nanny. Nanny/Mommy is good for some things, but not when the big sister is in charge. They are for when big sister needs a babysitter for the baby, and nothing more. It is almost as if Mommy is really a surrogate mommy.

While big sisters can be in the way for moms sometimes, it is also very sweet to watch there first attempts at mothering. Girls have a built in mother’s instinct, in most cases, and it comes out in them very early on. From the moment they hold their first doll, they are a mommy in their own mind. Of course, maybe that doll is the reason that they don’t care much for stinky diapers or screaming babies. I mean, that doll was just so much better behaved than that, right? Nevertheless, it doesn’t take long for them to realize that this new baby is a bit different than that baby doll they had, but as they get used to the new baby, they instinctively understand that crying and the smell is just a part of the deal with a younger sibling, so as long as Mommy or somebody else shows up for the tough times, the responsibilities of a big sister are not so bad.

Unfortunately, as the baby gets older, the newness also wears off some, and before the baby is old enpugh to play or walk, the older sister might get tired of helping out. It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes it does. If it happens, it is usually a short period of time, because before too long, the baby is old enough to play with its older sister, and then the fun really begins. With an older sister teaching the younger sibling the ropes, there is no telling what kind of trouble they can manage to get into. In fact, if you think about it, you can probably come up with a whole list of ways you got into trouble with your big sister’s help, or maybe for you it was a big brother, but that is another story.

Some little boys have such a sweet nature that it is almost surprising…especially when they are also a little bit tough guy. That pretty much describes my grand nephew, Matthew. When he was little he used to play fighting ninja on demand. He would try to make sure we all knew not to mess with him, and yet inside this little boy was a very kind heart. He loves to be a helper, especially when it involves his grandma, my sister, Cheryl. Matthew would do anything for her. He loves her so much. And second to her would have to be my mom, his great grandmother, but then, Matthew is a very loving guy, and he thinks he whole family is pretty great.

When Matthew was little…in his ninja days, I fully expected him to be a tough guy, who never showed much emotion, but then came the day that he walked in the door to my mom’s house, saw me sitting in the first chair he came to, and he walked right up to me and gave me a big hug. I was so surprised. It was just such a loving, sweet thing to do…not a tough guy move at all, but it was a Matthew move, as I have since found out.

To me it seemed like Matthew changed from tough guy to loving guy overnight. I’m sure that wasn’t the case, but I don’t see him every day…more like once a week or so. I suppose that in church there is just too much going on to notice the changes, but when he came into Mom’s living room, there were no distractions, and this sweet little boy simply acted on the feelings in his heart. His loving hug for me, his great aunt was such a precious act, and one that has stayed in my heart ever since. Little did he know that his actions that day brought joy into the heart of his work weary great aunt. And even if it meant little more than a hello hug to him, it made my entire day. How awesome that was.

Today, that sweet little boy turns 7 years old…also, unbelievable. I know that as he grows, he will become more and more loving, because it is simply in his nature. Happy birthday Matthew!! I love you very much sweet boy!! Have an awesome day!!

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